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Editorial | Cabinet Reshuffle Is Anything But An Accountability Exercise

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The question has been raised repeatedly as to whether the ruling party has two different attitudes towards ‘Mafias’. In any event, we lauded the Prime Minister and the PTI for having the ability to talk about corruption allegations leveled at their senior figures.

Today, in light of the federal cabinet reshuffle, one thing becomes clear. When it comes to its own favourite accusation against opponents, i.e. corruption, Naya Pakistan can offer us little more than a very limited conversation.

And so, in this editorial space, we are forced to raise the issues which few in the mainstream media are willing or able to discuss.

First, why did this performance of self-accountability by the federal government have to take precedence over Pakistan’s ongoing fight against the growing Coronavirus threat? Surely the PTI’s struggles with itself could wait a while, when the country most needs stability and focus in this unprecedented public health crisis? It comes across as if the government is still grasping for distractions from our Covid-19 woes – where its performance has been far short of exemplary.

Second, if the issue could not wait at all, then the government’s measures against the so-called Sugar Mafia are not convincing. Clearly, there the PM and his party are far too beholden to some figures in this affair – politically and otherwise. Since they cannot really address that for the foreseeable future, the cabinet reshuffle episode appears puzzling. The party might be able to sell this process to its own hardcore supporters. But others are unlikely to be moved by an exercise where the ruling party defines the problem, sets the standard for action and pats itself on the back for a job well done.

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Third, this plays into the nagging issue that we have mentioned earlier. Is accountability in Naya Pakistan going to be a tale of two Mafias: theirs and ours, Sicilian and Sugary? Under this very government, opposition leaders have been repeatedly jailed and aggressively investigated on even the most flimsy accusations. And yet, when addressing this administration’s own shady nexus with Big Business, those being held ‘accountable’ merely suffer the great ordeal of having their ministerial portfolio changed. Surely this is not the kind of revolutionary accountability of political leaders that the PTI made us all accustomed to?

Fourth, if we must delve into this investigation of the Sugar Mafia and alleged collusion from the federal cabinet, what are we to make of the Prime Minister himself? He has been chairing meetings of this very federal cabinet from the beginning. It does not give a very reassuring impression of the PM’s oversight over such matters.

On the whole, it would have been much more sensible to wait until a thorough investigation is completed, before taking serious and convincing action. Without that, the current developments give the impression of an empty PR gimmick. The country can ill afford such diversions as it prepares for the Coronavirus storm to hit its citizens.

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